Orders, Decorations & Medals - Australian Groups


Lot 2372    Session 8 (2.30pm Wednesday)    Orders, Decorations & Medals - Australian Groups

Estimate $20,000
SOLD $32,000

COLDITZ CASTLE ESCAPER (RAAF PILOT SECONDED TO RAF), Family Group: Father. Group of Five: East and West Africa Medal 1887-1900, - clasp - Benin 1897; China War Medal 1900; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal 1914-18; Victory Medal 1914-19. Asst. Paymaster. M.T.B.Fowler, R.N. H.M.S. St George. on first medal, Asst. Paymr. M.T.B.Fowler, R.N., H.M.S.Dido on second medal, Ft. Payr. M.T.B.Fowler, R.N. on third medal, Payr. Commr. M.T.B.Fowler. R.N. on last two medals. First medal engraved, the rest impressed. Swing mounted very fine.; Son. Group of Five: Military Cross (GRI); 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Defence Medal 1939-45; War Medal 1939-45. The year 1943 engraved on the reverse lower arm of the first medal, the rest unnamed as issued. Court mounted, extremely fine.

Together with; 1. A book, The Colditz Story, by P.R.Reid, MBE, MC, with the author's personalised note on the title page to Mr & Mrs Fowler (Bill's parents) and also two personal letters from the author. 2. A book, Colditz Oflag IV C by R.D.Penhall being photocopied pages of a post war report of the camp and its operations and escapes. 3. Memoirs of Squadron Leader H.N. (Bill) Fowler, M.C. R.A.F., a privately published history of Fowler's life prepared by his father including copies of sketches, photos and newspaper cuttings. 4. A wartime carbon copy of Commandant Prawitt's Camp Order No 15 dated at Colditz, June 19th 1944 and signed by two German staff, which directs that a POW working party be formed to repair damage caused by another escape attempt by six British officers on June 6th 1944. 5. Escaper's Iterrogation Report M.I.9 of Flt.Lt. H.N. Fowler, MC, R.A.F., bound copy of 'Most Secret' 8-page report compiled by M.I.9. 6. A typed personal account of 'Bill Fowler's and my escape' by Lieutenant van Doorninck. 7. Naval Prize Account (Prize Bounty, Battle of Jutland) named to Commander M.T.B.Fowler, R.N., H.M.S.Neptune Ex Ron Penhall Collection, Dix Noonan Webb Sale 22 (lot 98) September 2006. MC: LG 14/12/43. Recommendation by Air Vice Marshall, Air Officer Commanding, No 9 Group RAF: 'This officer showed much skill and courage in his efforts to escape. Even though recaptured after the first attempt, this did not deter him from making a second, and this time a successful effort. This escape was from a camp specially reserved for officers who have either attempted to escape, or have otherwise given trouble to the Germans. The initiative and daring he displayed merits recognition and I strongly approve the War Office suggestion that he be awarded the M.C.' Only 69 awards of the Military Cross and one bar to RAF for World War II. One newspaper article at the time stated; 'Military Cross to S.A. Airman, London, December 14 (1943). For operations which are veiled for security reasons, Sq-Ldr Hedley Neville Fowler, son of a South Australian mother, has been awarded the Military Cross. After serving in the RAAF Sqd Ldr Fowler transferred to the RAF as a fighter pilot in the battle of France, in which in a fortnight in the middle of May, 1940, he shot down three enemy aircraft. He and another South Australian, the late FO Leslie Radford Clisby, were such inseparables in an East Anglian air gunnery school that they became known as 'The Diggers'. Both went to separate spheres in France and both were shot down on the same day - on May 15, 1940.' Bill Fowler's Military Cross was presented to his parents in a Next-of-kin Ceremony held at Buckingham Palace in February 1945. Commander and Mrs Fowler told the King that they had come to England to be with their son but would now return to Australia. Maxwell Thomas Bourne Fowler; 15Jan1894 Clerk; 17Jul1896 Assistant Paymaster; 04Aug1905 Paymaster Lt Commander; 04Aug1909 Paymaster; 04Aug1911 Paymaster Commander; 04Aug1913 Fleet Paymaster. Establishments served - 25Oct1894 St George, cruiser, West Coast Africa, where he served as an Assistant Paymaster and Secretary's Clerk and was present at the bombardment of the Sultan of Zanzibar's palace in Aug1896 but not in the subsequent Benin operations; 13Jan1898 Mars, battle ship, Channel Squadron; 04Jul1899 Dido, China; 02Feb1903 Hearty, Fishery Duties; 25Jan1905 Penguin, Surveying vessel; 21Oct1907 Cyclops, Home Fleet; 01Sep1909 Psyche, Australia; 22Sep1914 Illustrious, battle ship wartime service; 04Dec1915 Neptune, battle ship, remainder of war service and was at Jutland in 1916; 14Jul1919 Wallaroo, shore base; 1920 Retired List. Hedley Neville (Bill) Fowler, born 08Jun1916 at London, England; 1920 to Adelaide, South Australia with parents; 1924 returned to England to Malvern boarding school; 1927 to Rose Hill, Banstead in preparation to attend Rugby School and while there won Junior and Senior cups for miniature rifle shooting; 1930 to Rugby School, selected as cadet U-016 to shoot at Bisley and also in school shooting eight to shoot for the Ashburton Shield representing in 1932 and 1933; in 1933 went to Adelaide, South Australia and attended the University of Adelaide living at St Mark's College and joined University Rifles and won two shooting cups; Jan-Dec1935 Corporal in 27 Infy Bn (Militia) in Adelaide; Enl.20Jan1936 in RAAF and to Point Cook as Air Cadet; 08Dec1936 graduated 4th as Pilot Officer and won Mannock Cup for best flyer on the course; Disch.07Jan1937 and returned to England as one of twelve Pilot Officers seconded to RAF and twelve RAN Midshipmen to training in RN; 19Feb1937 appointed Pilot Officer in RAF with five year short service commission; 27May1937 to 3 Fighter Sqn; 19Nov1938 promoted to Flying Officer; 03Oct1939 to 615 Gladiator Fighter Sqn; 13Nov1939 operations in France; made his first kill on 12May1940 when he shot down a Me109, which was also the squadron's first kill; he was credited with shooting down a Dornier Do17 on 14May followed by another the next day; on the same day 15May1940 piloting a Hurricane he was shot down while escorting bombers over Dinant and fought with a retreating French Company before being captured near Namur; 21May1940 POW interned at Dulag Luft at Oberursel (Frankfurt), Germany; 05Jun1940 to Oflag II A (Prenzlau) south west of Stettin; 05Jul1940 to Stalag Luft I (Barth); 03Sep1940 promoted to Flight Lieutenant; 05Nov1941 1st escape attempt; 07Nov1941 recaptured; taken back to Barth and spent 14 days in the cells; 01Dec1941 to Oflag IV C (Colditz); 09Sep1942 second escape; 25Mar1943 arrived Gibraltar; 28Mar1943 arrived at Hendon, England; 01Jul1943 appointed Squadron Leader; 13Jul1943 to 55 Operational Training Unit; 01Nov1943 to RAF Radnall on Film Unit duties; 31Jan1944 to Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment; 26Mar1944 killed during dive bombing trials in England; buried at Durrington Cemetery, Wiltshire, UK. Bill Fowler had a strong connection to Australia. He was the great grandson of Sir Henry Ayers, a Premier of South Australia for whom Ayers Rock (now Uluru) was named. In 1920 he and his family moved to South Australia and in 1924 returned to England so he could attend boarding school. In 1933, after completing his schooling, Bill returned with his family to Adelaide. He attended university and also served in the militia and in 1936 he enlisted in the RAAF graduating as a pilot from Point Cook. After war broke out he was seconded to England with eleven other RAAF pilots to serve with the RAF. In his account to MI9 of his shoot down and capture Bill Fowler stated,'On 15 May 1940, I was pilot of a Hurricane which took-off about 1100 hours from Vitry-en-Artois, escorting bombers over Dinant. At approximately 1145 hours I was shot down by Messerschmitt fighters about five miles north of Fumay, on the west bank of the River Meuse. My aircraft was on fire so I baled out and landed in a wood. I left my parachute in the middle of a bush and cut one of the panels out to bind round my head, which was bleeding. I had dropped my helmet on the way down and I was not wearing flying kit. My clothes were standard dress uniform, a khaki 'sidcot suit', and black flying boots. After landing I destroyed my pay book and personal letters, but kept my identity disc and a B.E.F. identity card. I threw away my pistol, which was of German make. I then started to walk west through thick woods. My aircraft had fallen in the forest on the east bank of the River Meuse. I walked for about five hours. Going was very rough and I took off my Sidcot suit and carried it. About 1700 hours I was resting by a tree when a French soldier jumped out of a bush and pointed a rifle at me. I speak a little French and he asked me whether I was a German. I showed him my B.E.F. identity card and convinced him that I was a British pilot. This Frenchman was one of six French sappers trying to rejoin their unit. With them I walked through woods to Focroi. Here I left them and joined the remnants of a company of French infantry, commanded by a Sub. Lieutenant. They were much disorganised, and were retreating west. Their M.O. attended to the cut on my head. The next day, 16 May, we passed through Rumigny. About 1630 hrs we were nearing Brunehamel when we were fired upon by a M.G. We got off the road and split up into two sections. I went with the Sub-Lieutenant. We moved into an isolated house where we stayed for about an hour. We were fired upon and returned the fire till our ammunition ran short. Two German tanks then appeared and we were surrounded. We therefore surrendered.' After capture Fowler was moved to a series of different locations and questioned only briefly finally arriving at Stalag Luft I (Barth) on 5 July. It was here while performing the duties of camp Parcels Officer that he made a solo escape by impersonating a German soldier. After two days on the run he was eventually arrested at Bergen by a German policeman and his dog because he could not produce his identity card and then it was discovered that he was an escapee. On his return to camp Fowler stated, 'The Kommandant visited me and took my attempted escape in good part. He told me he would try to keep me in the camp but that the 'Abwehr' officer had complained that I had committed a breach of confidence by escaping while I was Parcels Officer. The Kommandant agreed with me that as I was under guard I was not guilty of breaking my parole. I asked to see the 'Abwehr' officer, who insisted that I had committed a breach of confidence. I was sent to Oflag IV C (Colditz) at the end of Nov and arrived there on 1 Dec41.' On settling in he established a successful rapport with his fellow officers. He also displayed some imaginative thinking towards his captors as related in the book, Colditz, The Definitve History, by Henry Chancellor who writes of how Fowler turned to his advantage an infestation of wasps in a giant creeper which grew up one side of the Castle; 'Bill Fowler, an Australian airman, caught a wasp, tied a thin thread to its waist and attached it to a rolled-up cigarette paper. Bill's idea was that, since leaflets were being dropped by the R.A.F. all over Germany, it was up to us to play our part. Hundreds of wasps were caught and to each was attached a cigarette paper with the message Deutschland Kaput. The French, never to be outdone, caught a large number of wasps, tied a little square of paper to each, put them in matchboxes and released them together on parade. It was like a reversed snowstorm with the wasps flying upwards in furious mood. Pandemonium raged with all of us warding off the angry wasps, or pretending to.' In his report about Colditz, Fowler stated that there were about 600 guards and 400 prisoners with several 'shooting of prisoner' incidents. He said, 'The only method of retaliating by P/W is what is known as 'Bosch baiting', and is under the able direction of W/Cdr Bader, R.A.F. This consists of annoying the Germans on all possible occasions, by refusing to understand German, by making booby-traps, by writing pamphlets giving the truth about Germany, by demonstrating during roll calls, and in many other ways.' Bill Fowler also stated that the knowledge available to plan escapes at Colditz was formidable because most of the inmates had prior experience. Fowler reached Gibraltar in March 1943, was flown home to Hendon and 'debriefed' by M.I.9 and was recommended for an award of the Military Cross for his escape. He was appointed Squadron Leader and employed on lecturing duties on escape and evasion tactics for fellow aircrew. He quickly grew bored with this routine and begged to be allowed to return to flying, a request that resulted in his appointment to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down on Salisbury Plain as a test pilot for the Typhoon fighter-bomber. It was while so employed at Crickel Down Bombing Range, on 26 March 1944, while carrying out dive-bombing trials designed to find a weapon against German tanks for the forthcoming Allied invasion of Europe, that he was killed. His death however was not in vain as the notes found on the pad strapped to his knee helped to resolve some of the initial problems with this aircraft type. A letter from the Ministry of Defence states that on 26 March 1944 Squadron Leader H N Fowler was flying Typhoon JR307 on 'bombing duties'. The Squadron Leader was diving the aircraft on to the bombing range and on pulling out of the dive the aircraft broke up in mid-air. The aircraft came down 3 miles north of Crickel Down Bombing Range, near Tarrant Rushton Airfield at approximately 1500 hours. Squadron Leader Bill Fowler was only 27 years of age at the time of his death, and is buried in Durrington Cemetery, Wiltshire close to the RAF Station. The burial took place with Full Service honours, three volleys by the firing party followed by the Last Post. After that, the pall bearers and the officers of his flight passed in single file, standing for a few seconds at the salute at the head of the grave. One of those in attendance was Sqn Ldr Jim Payne who had got his wings at Point Cook with Bill. Bill Fowler's name is recorded on the WWII Wall of Remembrance in the Rugby School Memorial Chapel. With research.

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